• Polito's Take: The per diem deceit


    This whole system of paying lawmakers to drive back and forth to work is based on the honor system. What a joke. There are no checks and balances. Allow me to explain how it works and some of the dirty little secrets. A representative or senator simply fills out a form with the days they traveled to Boston and fax it into the State House. Then a check is cut, but wait it gets better.

    The solons don't even have to pick up the check. It's now direct deposited into their bank account. There's no way to verify if the lawmaker actually traveled to the State House, and they don't have to be there to pick up the check. So, let's say the House or Representative or Senate is not in session, which is about six months out of the year. The representative or senator could fax in the form, collect the per diem, and never leave their district. How's that for transparency? It's fairly transparent that the system can be gamed, and let's be frank here, an honor system for people who often display a lack of honor is a recipe for corruption, and the bilking of your tax dollars.

    The direct deposit component is new. In the old days, solons would line up at the State House to grab their checks on Friday afternoons. At least you'd be sure they were at their office one day a week.

    This is a system that's of the legislature, by the legislature, and for the legislature. Certainly, it's not for the taxpayers.

    Here's another one of those dirty little secrets, many lawmakers will take the bus. It's not what you think. "Bus" is a term used among some and refers to when two or more of our representatives carpool, but then they all submit their per diems. That's one of their little slang terms, "Taking The Bus."

    How do I know this? Former state reps have told me, off the record of course. Most were quick to add that they didn't do it, they just heard about other reps that did.

    In the plus column, about a quarter of our state reps and senators do have honor, they don't bill taxpayers for per diems. Like the rest of us, they pay for their own commute.

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